Which food or fluids to use
The food or fluid must be the appropriate texture for the patient. If the patient has had a swallow assessment, check what IDDSI Level of food texture or fluid consistency was recommended.
The food or fluid should be cold or warm, not piping hot.
Yoghurt, custard and apple puree are common choices. Some hospital wards and care homes keep tubs of yoghurt or apple puree specifically for administering medicines.
Crushed tablets or capsule contents may taste very bitter. It can be helpful to mask the taste of these medicines by using a strongly-flavoured food (e.g. chocolate custard) or thickened fluid (e.g. blackcurrant squash that has been thickened).
A few medicines should not be given with milk. The dispensing label will say if this is the case. Avoid using yoghurt or custard to give these medicines. Apple puree would be a suitable alternative.
How to safely give medicines with food or thickened fluid
- Instructions to crush tablets or open capsules, and administer with soft food or thickened fluid should be included in the patient’s MAR chart or care plan, and ideally on the medicine’s dispensing label.
- Not all tablets can be crushed or capsules opened and it is important this has been checked and documented.
- Not all medicines can be given with food. The dispensing label will say if food or milk has to be avoided before or after taking the medicine. If in doubt, check with a pharmacist.
- Homecare and care home staff may only administer prescription medicines on the instruction of the prescriber and must be trained and competent to do so.
Prepare and give medicines one at a time
- Prepare medicines one at a time. Do not crush all the patient’s medicines together.
- Once prepared, give immediately.
Use a small amount of food or thickened fluid
- Use a small amount of food or thickened fluid (e.g. a teaspoon) to ensure the full dose is taken.
- If taken with a meal, the medicine should be added to the first mouthful of food, not sprinkled over the whole dish.
- Do not add a medicine to a whole glass of thickened fluid.